How the government shutdown is affecting U.S. ports

Posted by Harriet Mills on Jan 22, 2019 4:41:21 PM

Choptank Transport - Port and Drayage News

Port and Drayage News

There are roughly 800,000 federal employees being affected by largest and longest government shutdown in history. How, then, are the 360 U.S. ports feeling the effects when there are so many government agencies involved in port activities? Surprisingly there are conflicting reports about the issue.


The largest port in the United States, the Port of Los Angeles, reported last week that it is not yet seeing much of an impact on the port’s activity and “has not experienced any backlogs or delays due to the partial government shutdown.”

The Tampa Bay Business Journal also reports that Port Tampa Bay says its operations remain normal, as does the Tampa Bay Coast Guard, mainly due to the fact that more than 1,000 members continue to report to work daily, without pay.

Many of the agencies affected by the shutdown are ones that ports rely on heavily, such as the Federal Maritime Commission, Department of HomelPort inspectionand Security, U.S. Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection, Department of Transportation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The lack of disruption makes sense when you realize that most of the government jobs in ports are considered “essential.” Employees on the “essential” list are expected to continue to show up to work every day, unpaid, if necessary.

But wait, it’s not time for a big sigh of relief yet. Other reports contradict these findings, citing examples of specific and problematic areas in the port system that are indeed seeing delays. One such issue, for example, revolves around COFRs. Any ships that weigh more than 300 gross tons are required to obtain a certificate of financial responsibility, or COFR–a document that the U.S. Coast Guard issues before these behemoths are permitted to enter within 12 miles of the U.S. coastline. As of Monday, January 14, 2019, the U.S. Coast Guard’s website still states that due to the government shutdown, they are no longer processing these applications. It goes on to say that “delays in granting approval to enter U.S. waters may occur.” This means ships are stuck at sea, creating delays inland.

According to CNBC, some ports are seeing delays in dock refueling stations because of a lack of security inspectors, causing 12–48 hours of down time for some vessels.

Delays or no delays, ports around the country are getting calls from worried clients, and although they are being reassured that the ports are still operational, and workers are continuing to show up, things may change quickly.

“We are not seeing any delays at Choptank Transport’s business from the government shutdown,” said Gwen Roth, Choptank’s container sales representative.

Depending on the length of the shutdown, things may quickly change. After more than a few weeks of workers not getting paid, one wonders how long that ship can sail. Keep up to date on the latest by contacting our port and drayage department directly at

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Tags: Industry News, government shutdown